Tucson tragedy reminds campus of need for TAT

January 26, 2011

by Zach Beaird, STAFF REPORTER

Tucson shooting suspect Jared Loughner’s suspension from Pima Community College last September has raised many questions of how troubled students should be handled on college campuses. Faculty and staff at Tech, however, have long been working to effectively handle these situations through the Threat Assessment Team. 

Following the 2007 Virginia Tech shooting, pressure was put on universities to decide how these situations should be handled and what can be done to avoid them. The TAT was formed in early 2008 in response to this effort.

The TAT includes James King, vice president for student affairs; Linda Griffin, dean of student development; Dickie Crawford, dean of student life and TAT chairperson; Tech Police Chief Randal Hermes; Tony Young, associate professor of psychology and behavioral science; and Rick Simmons, associate professor of English. 

Griffin said there are two ways a student can pose a threat at a university, and the TAT is designed to help with both.

“The purpose of this group is to identify potential concerns on campus and make campus safer,” Griffin said. “If a student is exhibiting signs of harming themselves or others, we can help them by getting them involved in counseling services.”

However, she said there are different levels of concern and action that depend on the severity of the case they are dealing with.

“Bad home life, dating, financial problems and grades cause stress that can’t be coped with,” Griffin said. “Not knowing how to handle that stress is the bulk of what we deal with, but there are some extreme cases.”

She said students with extreme cases, such as suicide or life threats, receive a psychological assessment first, and the TAT begins working to help the student. 

Crawford said a student is never suspended immediately, but if a problem persists it is a possibility.

“If necessary, a student may have to face the Behavioral Standards Committee, which consists of 10 faculty, staff and students,” Crawford said. “They meet with the student and are shown the evidence of their behavior and decide if a student has violated a code of conduct and decide what should be done because of it.” 

He said a strong foundation must be formed in order to help identify such students.

“Without good relationships and communication with other faculty and departments throughout campus, all of this information is just falling through the cracks and not being brought to our attention,” Crawford said.

He also said the students are potentially the key in helping inform the TAT about troubled classmates.

“Students are the eyes and ears of this place,” Crawford said. “They see things we don’t see, so we count on and need them to pass on concerns.”

He said the easiest way students can report others is by going to www.publicdocs.maxient.com/incidentreport.php?LouisianaTech and filling out the Incident Reporting Form. 

He said the information is then filed into a database in judicial affairs where the TAT will be quickly notified to deal with the situation.

E-mail comments tozcb001@latech.edu.